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‘Donald Duck? He is the Emperor of the World!’

#deathpenalty" data-image-description="<div style="color: #000000;"> <div> <h1 style="color: #444444;"></h1> </div> <div class="clrdiv"></div> <div class="classleft"><span class="byline">Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Sep 4, 2014, </span></div> <div class="clrdiv"></div> </div> <div style="color: #000000;"> <div id="commntData"> <div id="storydiv" class="storydiv cm_filter"> <div> <div id="LeftData"> <div id="slidshdiv"></div> <div id="sshow"> <div class="cnt"> <div></div> <div id="bellyad"> <div class="mainimg1"> <div><img title="Walking dead too long" src=",width-300,resizemode-4/edit-inn.jpg" alt="Walking dead too long" width="300" border="0" vspace="0" /></div> <div class="zoomimg1"></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div id="ftredcmt"></div> </div> <div id="inc_dec" class="clearFix"> <div class="Normal"><em><strong>By:Somasekhar Sundaresan</strong></p> <p>Lengthy process of implementing death sentence doesn’t function as retribution or deterrence</em></p> <p>The Supreme Court has ruled that it would start a new tradition of hearing in open court, petitions seeking review of judgments confirming the death penalty. Otherwise, all review petitions are considered by the judges in chamber without another hearing. This decision, yet again underlines the sensitivity in our highest judiciary to the infliction of death by man on man.</p></div> <div class="Normal"> The futility of capital punishment has often found mention in this column. More recently, rulings of the Supreme Court on the unacceptable length of time between the imposition of a death sentence and execution were lauded – the court has consistently ruled that even a convict sentenced to death enjoys the constitutional protection of the right to life until the last breath. The Supreme Court has documented, with examples, how convicts on death row have gone insane or physically infirm, just waiting to know if they would be put to death or pardoned. Of late, undertrials accused of gruesome crimes that are widely reported in the media have been found dead in prison under mysterious circumstances – typically explained away as suicide, they are recipients of lawless justice meted out the honour code among prison inmates.<br /> Expectedly, hardliners rail against such considerations. If a criminal can kill with impunity, they would argue, there should be no reason to spare her from any form of indignity. They would accuse defense lawyers of frustrating execution. A typical line one hears is that it is only in India one experiences delays in execution and the system is broken. The United States of America is often extolled for perceived speed in punishment and the allegedly consequential fear of law in the American society.</div> <div class="Normal"> Nothing could be farther from the truth as is underlined in a judgment handed down just six weeks ago by a Californian court. Striking down a death sentence handed down in 1995 to a rape and murder convict, the court has held the death penalty system in California to be violative of the constitutional protection against imposition of cruel and arbitrary punishment. The court found that since 1978 (when California introduced a new law on capital punishment), over 900 individuals were sentenced to death there. Only 13 have been executed, 63 died of natural causes, 22 committed suicide, and the rest still languish in prison. Indeed, some prison inmates have died of “drug overdose” or “violence in the exercise yard”.<br /> The review and appeal of a death sentence takes more than 25 years in California. The national average in the US, at over 15 years, is not spectacularly better. Only 17 out of the 748 Californian convicts with a death sentence have had their appellate and review processes run its full course. Since 2006, no execution has taken place. Over 20 per cent of the death row convicts have crossed the age of 60 in prison. The random few who do get executed would have languished for so long that their execution would serve neither the purpose of retribution nor deterrence, the court has observed.<br /> “Indeed, the law, and common sense itself, have long recognized, the judgment reasons, “that the deterrent effect of any punishment is contingent upon the certainty and timeliness of its imposition.” These observations could well have been about India. Despite the paraphernalia of safeguards, the administration of the death sentence is as damaged in the US as it is in India. The blind faith Indian hardliners have in the US justice system is therefore neither backed by facts nor shared by her constitutional courts. In fact, access to justice is so expensive in the US that even the innocent are incentivized to strike “plea bargains” rather than fight to clear their reputation, relieving prosecutors from having to stand the test of scrutiny. The super-rich settle to save super-expensive litigation costs. The impoverished end up in jail. The quality of legal representation they then get is proportionate to their financial strength, rather than strength of their merits.<br /> Our Supreme Court’s latest decision on a public review of death sentences is therefore understandable – one has to be truly cautious about consigning any human into the living hell that the death sentence represents.</div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> " data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" class="size-full wp-image-42845" src="" alt="Vishnu feeds Trump the first slice. Credit; Veejay Sai" width="880" height="585" />

Vishnu feeds Trump the first slice. Credit; Veejay Sai

A tweet announced that a group called the Hindu Sena would be celebrating the birthday of Donald Trump, and welcomed everyone for their celebrations. By noon a bunch of media people had reached Jantar Mantar. Inside a makeshift tent was a flex wishing Trump, the Republican candidate for the approaching US presidential election, a happy birthday. Another framed flex showed Trump carrying a double-barrel rifle. A table in the centre, decorated with blue and orange balloons, awaited a cake. Eventually a couple of boys brought out their guitars and a kahoon that had been hidden below the table. They were the live orchestra for the occasion.

Vishnu Gupta, founder and national president of the Hindu Sena, wore a pale pink kurta-pyjama and a white waistcoat. He emerged leading a loyal following of about 20 young men. The same party made news on a previous occasion, when they ransacked the kitchen at Kerala Bhavan, alleging that beef was being served there.

Gupta is a self-proclaimed bhakt of Trump. Members of his Sena brought in a three-tier cake. On each level was written, ‘Happy Birthday’, ‘Donald’ and ‘Trump’. “It weights seven kgs!” said an excited Gupta as he went about arranging it.

One of the group fished out bright orange scarves for everyone to wear them around their necks. Another member had a plastic bag filled with shiny party caps. ‘Yeh Daanal Trump ka favourite colour hai!” (This is Trump’s favourite colour) said Gupta, as he put on a metallic blue cap. Others in the group were given red caps. This explained the blue balloons hanging everywhere.

After the celebrations. Credit: Shome Basu

After the celebrations. Credit: Shome Basu

A press photographer objected that the flex showing Trump with the gun was being covered. The framed flex was repositioned next to Vishnu. ‘Orlando me jo Islamic aatankvaad dwara maare gaye, unke aatma shaanti ke liye ek minit ka maun rakha jaayega.’ Gupta announced (‘A minute’s silence for those who died in Orlando because of Islamic terrorism’).

The orchestra was signalled to begin. The group sang ‘Happy Birthday Donald Trump’ in every pitch possible. Gupta cut the cake. He scooped up a slice of it and held it where Trump’s mouth was printed on the flex. He then fed his colleagues, all of whom seemed excited as a small group of journalists looked on.

‘Does Trump know you and your group exist?’ I asked.

‘Yes! Some of his followers on Twitter also follow us. Yaani ki unn tak hamaari baat pahuchti hain,’ Gupta replied. (Some of his followers follow us on Twitter. Which means what we are saying is reaching him.)

Par Orlando me jo hadsa hua, woh samlaingink group ke khilaaf hua! Aapke kya vichaar hain?’ I asked. (The attacks in Orlando targeted homosexuals. What is your take on that?)

Jinke khilaaf bhi hua ho… woh Islamic aatankvaad tha. Waisey homosexuality hamare sanskriti ke khilaaf hai. Uske khilaaf ham bhi hain!’ (Whoever is was against, it was Islamic terrorism. By the way, Indian culture is against homosexuality. We are also against it.)

‘But aren’t you against guns? You’ve even showed Trump holding one. The attack was possible because of gun laws, right?’

Yeh mera favourite photo hain. Trump hamare vishwarakshak hain. Hamara raja hain’ Gupta proclaimed. (This is my favourite photo. Trump is the saviour of this world. He is our king!)

Long Live Donal Duck! Credit: Veejay Sai

Long Live Donal Duck! Credit: Veejay Sai

The man had little to say, excepting repeat these words of admiration. As other members of the press began to ask him questions, I spotted one of the Sena wearing a t-shirt that had Donald Duck on it. I asked him why he supported Trump.

The young man looked confused. ‘Donald Duck? Woh tho duniya ka Shahanshah hain! Ham unke janamdin manaane aaye hain aur unko support karne!’ (Donald Duck? He is the emperor of this world! We are here to celebrate his birthday and support him!”). I asked if I could take his photo. He became self-conscious and backed into his group. Meanwhile one of the members began poking the balloons with the knife they had used to cut the cake, and everyone shouted ‘Donald Trump Zindabad! Bharat Mata Ki Jai!’ (Long live Donald Trump, Victory to Mother India!)

As I exited the tent, opposite this whole fiasco I saw two placards left behind by an earlier protest. ‘Hamari Bhool, Kamal Ke Phool’ and ‘Bharat Ke Bachchon Ko Bachaao’ (Our mistake: the lotus flower) and (Save India’s children!). These two placards ironically brought us back to the hard hitting reality of our times. They both struck close to home.

Veejay Sai is a writer, editor and cultural critic living in New Delhi.

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